The monotony of existence

Chosen for comfort as opposed to any pretense of an ensemble. Tracksuit bottoms and an old ragged t-shirt. Four walls, looming ominously like sentinels – guards that watch over the only resident within. The constant hum of a computer fan battles a droll of music to combine into white-noise that becomes a dull ache focused deep between the eyeballs. Shackled to a daily endeavour that has long lost any significance. Life has become a routine, time broken only by sleep. Sustenance, shower, sleep. What is it all for? Every day is the same…

Sometimes I loose track. Maybe this is my own life. Maybe it is a fabrication.

Sitting alone at my drawing board I find it difficult to articulate my feelings. Focusing on a blank canvas, I put pressure on myself to conceive something original to express my frustrations. At once I am both exhausted and inactive.

Naturally, I start to think of a character, endowing them with these emotions. Boredom, fear, lethargy. Soon a form starts to follow, with a personality beginning to develop. A creature of the night for which time has lost all meaning, the reference points long since removed by a prolonged sense of solitude.

When I grow up, I want to be... a Solider

Character sketches

Developing the character through a process of redrawing to unite a personality with a visual form, details such as attire, posture, and expression all add to the flesh out the persona. As you get to know the emerging character with more intimacy, other possibilities are revealed and the character may begin to take on a life of their own.

Thinking about the food that she likes to eat, or the music that she likes to listen to. How does she pass the long hours? These are mundane details that add depth to a character and help you get a better understanding of them as if you were getting to know a stranger. A seed, which will develop in an ongoing process of growth, added to with every encounter.

Slowly a personality is formed, demonstrated in the subtleties of her visual form.

Character illustration development

Character illustration development

A name is key when developing any character. It sets out certain preconceptions from the outset and is one of the key aspects people will remember. It distinguishes your character and is often one of the first questions people ask as if being introduced to a real person. ‘What is her name?’

This is a powerful device not to be overlooked lightly, but from the outset, I had intended to avoid bestowing a name on the character for deliberate reasons. But as I began to build the character, I found myself referring to her by a name that developed organically and seemed fitting of her personality. Sticking with my initial intention to leave her name a mystery.

I will leave it for you to speculate on what this could be and as you become more familiar, you will surely find a name that fits her best in your mind.

In keeping with the core motivation for her conception, she is a creature trapped in the solitude of her own existence. Neither resentful or self-pitying, she carries herself with confidence, pragmatically excepting the curse of her morality (or lack of). A casual posture demonstrates her apathy. Nonchalance in the slump of a shoulder, while retaining composure in her posture to show conscious self-awareness.

Often fiddling with her hands, she conveys a sense of boredom and the drastic shifting of body position is a sign of these frustrations – like someone struggling to get to sleep when consciousness is far from fleeting, searching for comfort in one position but never quite finding it. The tuck of her toes is an instinctive gesture, defensive against some deep-seated insecurity which alludes to a complexity yet to be discovered.

 

Character illustrations move around each other

Character illustrations move around each other

Independently each illustration is a snapshot in time, conveying my initial inspiration at its core – the apathy of one’s own existence. Bring each image together serves to multiply this sentiment as we create a non-linear series of points in time over a period in which nothing of note changes. This eludes to the monotony of routine, emphasized by the sum of its parts.

Composed in a tapestry of thirteen character poses, the illustrations are carefully arranged to occupy space in an abstract manner. Gravity is the only discernible reference, acting on the character and indicating the position of the ‘floor’ of the illustration which acts as a deliberate constraint for our character within the parameter of the composition. Casting no shadows (or any other direct interactions with her surroundings) to create an invisible barrier to compound the sense of containment.

Lacking any formal composure, scratchy marks are scattered throughout the image like a captive striving to keep a tally of the passing time. Improvised by etching them into the walls, skewed letters boldly announce the title of the illustration in strong block capitals are the sentiment around which everything is arranged.

Character illustration development

Variations in colour composition

Considering the initial intention with every aspect of the composition and incorporate levels of detail with the development of a character, the illustration carries a depth below the surface.

In later developments of the illustration, I experimented with alternate colour schemes. Often while working on the shading of my illustrations, I implement a holding colour to help visualaise the process. This was one of the variations, along with a version focusing colour on the background.

Colour emphasis on the background draws focus to the characters

Colour emphasis on the background draws focus to the characters

Often time-consuming, it is well worth the work that it takes to nurture a character. Peeling back the layers of an emerging personality it is easy to grow a sense of attachment to one’s creations. I hold this illustration particularly close to my heart, for a combination of reasons – the poignant themes executed in a well-formed composition and the conception of a character that I feel a sense of empathy.

It can often be difficult setting out to articulate one’s own ideas and succeed in conveying these sentiments in a manner that others may easily grasp. Even now, trying to explain the motivations for this illustration, I feel a sense of vulnerability for my honesty and the dark underbelly of emotion from which it has spawned. Nevertheless, it is a piece that I am proud of.

With this piece now available as a Limited Giclee Art Print – funding on Kickstarter – I hope this blog has helped to explain the intentions and motivations behind the conception of this character.

If you like it, please take a moment to explore the project, where you can pledge your support. In return, I have set up a series of goodies in exchange for your generosity.

When I grow up, I want to be... a Solider